POLITICS
08/31/2020 11:09 EDT | Updated 08/31/2020 13:07 EDT

An Ontario Rent Freeze Sounds Like A Good Thing. It Could Be Bad For Tenants.

Ontario's plan to prevent rent increases in 2021 was criticized by both landlord and tenant groups.

The Canadian Press/ Frank Gunn
Masked pedestrians wait at a crosswalk in front of graffiti demanding a rent freeze, in Toronto on Thursday, April 2, 2020.

The Ontario government plans to introduce legislation this fall to prevent rent increases for most tenant households in 2021, Housing Minister, Steve Clark, said on Friday afternoon.

Clark’s office, in a statement, said that, while the Province typically sets out the maximum allowable rent increases for a given year— it’s a calculation tied to inflation— this year was different.

They vowed to engage both tenant and landlord groups, to ensure the law was “fair and balanced.’”

Few details on their plan were immediately available.

Asked by the Star whether households will have to meet certain criteria to avoid rent increases, and whether they had an estimate on how many households will be covered, a spokesperson said Clark would introduce a detailed proposal “over the coming weeks″ covering “the vast majority″ of Ontario renters.

But the announcement was criticized Friday by both landlord and tenant groups.

Watch: What’s The Solution To Skyrocketing Rents In Canada? Story continues below.


Tony Irwin, president of the Federation of Rental-Housing Providers of Ontario, which represents landlords, said they were both “surprised and disappointed″ by the news from Queen’s Park.

Rent stabilization was a blanket response, he claimed, arguing the government should, instead, be focusing on assisting those who couldn’t pay their rent — whether it was frozen or not.

“This will be providing relief to many tenants who, quite frankly, aren’t in dire straits,″ Irwin said.

Tenant advocates, meanwhile, claimed the move didn’t go nearly far enough to protect renters.

Bahar Shadpour, from the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, said, Friday, the pledge didn’t address the “root causes″ of unaffordable rents, and urged the ministry to look at issues such as a lack of regulation over rent increases between tenancies.

Tenant advocate Cole Webber also charged that rent stabilization could actually make matters worse and incentivize eviction.

“Landlords’ financial incentive to both evict sitting tenants and to seek rent increases above the guidelines would be substantially increased by any rent freeze,″ Webber said on Friday.

The Province has faced pushback this summer against its recently-passed legislation for landlords and tenants, known as Bill 184; Toronto City councillors in July voted to challenge portions of the legislation in court.

A key concern for the City is a portion allowing landlords to apply for eviction orders without a hearing for tenants who fall behind on rent repayment plans.

While the Province placed a moratorium on residential evictions earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic, that halt was lifted at the end of last month.

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